December 21, 2009

The Garden Writers Association Connections Event at The Royal Botanical Gardens and Dundurn Castle

December 4, 2009

One of the best things about The Garden Writers Association, (Region 7, Canada), is the annual luncheon at Canada Blooms (and all the swag that comes along with it!) That, and its' directory, are well worth the membership fees.

The Connections Event at the Royal Botanical Gardens was another way for the members to get together before Christmas.

It was an opportunity to become more familiar with RBG staff and their projects. There was a one-hour lecture about the new directions and projects of the RBG and then a one-hour tour of the RBG Centre, which included the new atrium, the herbarium, the Mediterranean greenhouse, and the orchid greenhouse collection.

(I was hoping that it would be more of a networking opportunity, where the members could have announced new books or projects that they were working on, asked other members for advice about challenges they may be encountering and just a great way of becoming familiar with their peers, putting names to faces. Perhaps that will happen in future meetings.)

After the lecture, I started the second half of the tour photographing Yvonne Cunnington and Miriam Goldberger in the new atrium.

Royal Botanical Garden

Helen Battersby took a picture of me photographing Yvonne and Miriam, while being photographed by Laura Grant. My first reaction to the photo was “Wow, that looks so cool!” My second reaction was, “Look how slim my waist looks!”

Royal Botanical Garden

photo © Helen Battersby

Here is Helen, Yvonne and Miriam. ↓

Royal Botanical Garden

After our 15 minutes in the atrium Helen and I run off to the orchid greenhouse, which is usually not open to the public, to photograph the Vanilla orchid.

Royal Botanical Garden

We were lucky to find it in bloom. Each individual flower only last a day.

Royal Botanical Garden
Royal Botanical Garden

After that I headed off to Mediterranean greenhouse, and on the way I found Wendy Downing, Laura Grant and Veronica Sliva.

Royal Botanical Garden

In the Mediterranean house I found Sonia Day. Sonia is the weekly gardening columnist for the Toronto Star. She also has a new book that can be ordered now through I photographed her beside the California Geranium, Senecio petasitis.

Royal Botanical Garden

While admiring the Wollemi Pine exhibits I was lucky to photograph Dan Cooper, Dorothy Dobbie, and Barbara Phillips-Conroy. Dorothy has a really great gardening radio program that can be heard on Sunday mornings through

Royal Botanical Garden

Not being a person that will let a closed door stand in my way (Staff Only!), I asked Alex Henderson, Curator of Collections, to show us the Mediterranean back of house. Most of the area was used as prep space for new display plant for the rest of the Centre, but they are also using it to germinate seedlings of endangered native plants, such as Trichophorum planifolium.

Royal Botanical Garden

In the last 15 minutes I visited the RBG herbarium. This was a surprise to me. I knew of the one at the University of Guelph but I had no idea we had such a resource so close by.

Royal Botanical Garden

After the tour of the RBG, Helen and I headed into Hamilton for lunch at the Modern India Buffet. I figured that if we only had an hour for lunch the best thing to do was go to a restaurant that had food already prepared. I have eaten there before and loved it. There is so much choice (and the older I get the more I appreciate an all-you-can-eat buffet!)

I was hoping that there were a few other people that could have joined us but many of the Toronto garden writers headed back to town and some had to drive up north before the arrival of a predicted snowstorm. But the truth is, I know I had a much better conversation with Helen than I would have with a group of people. Helen is such a prolific writer in her blog that I think she should have a newspaper column. If nothing else, with all the work she has already done, she is far overdue for her own gardening book.

After lunch we headed over to Dundurn Castle. We all congregated in the gift shop, where Margaret Bennet-Alder took the opportunity to share the fact that she has the 2010 version of her book The Toronto Gardener's Journal available for sale. This is a great resource reference book for gardeners from all over Southern Ontario.

Dundurn Castle

From the gift shop we headed over to Dundurn Castle, home of Sir Allan Napier MacNab. The castle has more than 40 rooms and was completed in 1835.

Dundurn Castle

The Horticultural Society of Hamilton had done a great job recreating the Christmas decorations of the past.

Dundurn Castle
Dundurn Castle

It was really lovely. I photographed the remaining garden writers on the stairs in the main entrance.

Dundurn Castle

Our tour guide, Simon Taylor, took Helen and I for a stroll through The Kitchen Garden. Here, Simon and Helen are standing in front of what was left of the Castor bean plants.

Dundurn Castle

There wasn't much to see at this time of year, but the design and size of this project was very impressive.

Dundurn Castle

We plan to come back in the summer, when the gardens are at their peak.

Dundurn Castle

photo © Simon Taylor

If you are hosting a garden related event in the GTA and would like it covered in or would like to place an e-poster about it on our Events Calendar, just contact me. I am always delighted to promote anything gardening in Toronto.


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